As sport/utility vehicles grow to the size of small nations, Suzuki is supplying the entry-level segments with good-quality low-priced vehicles that don't have to stick out of the garage. Suzuki took the body-on-frame Grand Vitara, stretched the wheelbase 12.6 in. (to 110.2), added 19.1 in. in overall length, and threw in a third-row seat to create the XL-7. The top GV engine has been enlarged from 2.5 to 2.7L , the aluminum twin-cam V-6 now boasting 170 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. Take your choice between a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.
Available with either rear drive or 4WD, the XL-7 is fitted with MacPherson struts in front and a solid axle out back. Four-wheel-drive versions are true 4x4s, offering a low-range transfer case for extra hill-climbing prowess. But off-road is where this smallish SUV shines.
With the third-row seat (kids only) in place, cargo area is only 6.6 cu ft; fold it flat and cargo room jumps to 37 cu ft. A little cost cutting is evident from behind the wheel, but Suzuki really packs the XL-7 with value. Ranging from $20,299 for a RWD Standard version to $24,999 for a well-equipped 4WD Touring model, the XL-7 is worth a look for the household that needs more than a compact sport/utility, but can't afford to break the bank.